I’ve always been confrontational. With others, of course. Also with myself. It is how I have achieved. I learned from my confrontation with others. I grew from confrontation with myself.
I call people out. I call myself out. Equal opportunity accountability.
How else can we progress? It is too easy to hide these days. Too easy to find support in the “Likes” of the ignorant, or friends who support us to avoid appearing judgmental if they don’t. We justify our current condition, and the pace of our development, by comparing ourselves to those who aren’t evolving at a similar clip. We accept this even when we know the truth.
Without someone to call bullshit, we allow ego to accept its position in relation to others instead of demanding an account of our true condition in relation to our own potential.
I started Gym Jones after having had a fitness epiphany. Inside the bubble I blew I was The Man. Venturing outside the precise demands of my world — the world my ego loved — proved how specific my fitness was but more importantly it exposed how limited my appreciation of fitness and capability had become. I built my world and defended it so that ego could thrive. Stepping out changed the course of my evolution.
I used the new metric as a measuring stick. I obsessed. I focused energy on my own development at the expense of those who helped me reach the initial point of realization. Ego soared. I ignored those around me to chase a new, improved version of Self. It was a dangerous decision made in a difficult time. I was admonished. But the cost didn’t matter because I knew the ultimate outcome would be worth it.
Wherever you are today cost someone something they didn’t want to pay. Hopefully — if you achieved — you brought them along with you.
My lesson was simple: however good I was in my specific niche, I’d been cruising through life below my potential and I made that OK with the words I used and ideas I espoused. I could only begin to progress when I admitted that my current condition wasn't acceptable or fixed.
I don’t see too many people willing to do this.
I do see a lot of motivational phrases. Words spoken by influence-peddlers to motivate those who haven’t yet developed the ability to first, make an honest self-accounting, and then to motivate and discipline themselves toward higher achievement.
To me these words are empty. They last a day. Or until the next social media post of essentially the same words tweaked to appear different. Soar with eagles … that sort of shit.
An eagle is lazy. Soaring implies minimum energy output, no flapping of wings but using the energy and lift provided by the environment to lazily cruise above potential killing fields. To hunt with minimum effort.
How far has laziness taken you? Have you seen how far consistent effort and self-discipline has taken someone else? Pretty cool, huh? And it’s not out of reach. But it is made distant by the words and ideas that imply it can be achieved on the back of a positive attitude and some work — without being hard on yourself or those around you.
Open your mind to what might be and to who you might become. Take action. Persist when feedback isn’t positive and when the motivational words fall short. Forge ahead when it’s the opposite of progress you feel, or stagnation rears its head.
When I was young I refused the value of persistence because my experience didn’t include it. Age and maturity prove its value. I've seen the results of persistence again and again. Now I consider it the most important characteristic in the development of fitness or technical skill — or just about anything. Keep fucking going.
Once upon a time I posted something about commitment, and persistence on a social media feed and was admonished for it being negative, and condescending. I didn’t laugh as I would have when I had less experience. I considered it, I meditated on it, and concluded that I would continue calling people out and holding them accountable.
I decided to observe and comment on drive-by commitment and intensity, and the people I see come and go in this world because for me, this is the disease infecting mankind generally: rapid, empty motivation followed by non-transformative effort, and finally, attention shifting toward the next transparently-inspirational bullshit activity that promises evolution, and gratification.
I love mouth-breathers. They fetch the ball. Over and over. But I’ve never learned anything from them. I learned much about myself and others from the dog who refuses to fetch.
I always tell the rabid, mouth-breathing FNG who expounds about training and intensity and how hardcore he is or will be to talk to me in two years. Because anyone who is still around in two years won't need to talk at all. Their doing will have spoken for them.
And that action and persistence won’t have been executed on the back of a positive, motivational phrase; it will have been initiated by honest self-examination, dissatisfaction — maybe even disgust — and persistently expressed desire to change.
I climbed as hard as I did and accomplished what I did in the mountains as a reaction to people who said, “You can’t.” And for the most part those to whom, “You can,” sounded good were down in the valley, pretending.
These days, I still don’t give myself the slack that I didn’t think appropriate when I was expressing the height of my ambition. It is true that, the things I was willing to damage myself to accomplish in life, I've done and now it's something different. And while my body has changed, my attitude has not and will not.
Empty words didn’t change me. And if you can’t see empty words for what they are, if you are motivated by them, then what you can accomplish won’t be anything close to the potential you could achieve by examining yourself ruthlessly, and holding yourself accountable for every step you took in the direction of congratulation instead of taking one toward genuine progress.
Take the hard words. Use them. Become more because of them. Easy is easy. A slap on the back hurts as much as it glows. Be honest. Be hard. Who you can become will thank who you are right now.
Banner photo: ©Ace Kvale 1990
Climbing photo: ©Scott Backes 1994
MFT on ladder: ©Marko Prezelj 2017
Video: ©Brian Mendoza 2014